The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

31 Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm

Fourth-century church history is simultaneously the history of the emperors, Christian with most of the Constantinian dynasty, briefly pagan in Julian; but Julian's disastrous campaign against Persia in 363 was taken to be a sign that his old polytheism offered no security to the cause of Roman power and imperial domination. His failure and death provided a contributory cause of Christian success in the conflict with paganism. In this age it was almost axiomatic that military victory was a providential gift not granted to people whose religious rites or moral conduct failed to propitiate heaven. Prayers win battles, wrote the pagan Libanius (or. 20. 48). Yet from 375 onwards the barbarian influx in the west transformed the operations of both state and church. The intermingling of church controversy with imperial politics sometimes solved problems for both church and state, but could also create them. The Christian dissensions of the fourth and fifth centuries are misread if they are naïvely interpreted as mere struggles for power. What most mattered to the contending bishops was the theological teaching of their tradition. At Nicaea in 325 Constantine the Great was determined to achieve harmony and consensus, and largely succeeded. The authority of his great council would have been weakened if rival factions had been allowed to create a split with a substantial minority opposed to the central decisions. Wise bishops also wanted consensus and unity in accord with the tradition of scriptural understanding which they had received. There were enemies to combat: pagan critics who read Celsus and Porphyry, schismatics who, while in essentials orthodox, vehemently dissented (like Donatists on moral grounds) to the point of rigid separation from the main Christian body, and heretics who longed for their version of the faith to be accepted as at least a valid option, best of all as the more authentic form of divine truth. In Christian history, however, the most passionate disputes have been, and were in the fourth century, between those who stood very close to one another. The issues were too often logomachies, a feature already troubling as early as 2 Tim. 2: 16, 23.

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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